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Is an FHA-Insured Mortgage Right for You?

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The days of putting little money down to buy a home aren’t over.

After years of risky mortgages backed up by small down payments, most lenders aren’t underwriting mortgages without a significant sum up front and a high credit score. But a decades-old loophole can still put home buyers in a house for next to nothing. Mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) allow borrowers to get approved with a down payment as small as 3.5% of the agreed selling price of the house and don’t require a high credit score.

As millions of Americans have come to realize, getting into a house for little money down has its disadvantages. Borrowers who’ve pumped little equity into their home are often more willing to walk away from it during lean times that keep them from making payments; this risk is further elevated when home values are in decline and troubled borrowers are unable to refinance or sell the home at a price that covers their losses.

Still, FHA-insured mortgages are far less risky than the subprime mortgages that lenders originated before the housing bust. FHA-insured mortgages require documentation and verifiable proof that the borrower is capable of making their monthly payments. (Most subprime mortgages didn’t require such proof.)

The looser terms of FHA-insured mortgages have helped make them more popular. Today, FHA-insured mortgages make up about 25% of the mortgage market, up from 3% in 2006, FHA commissioner David Stevens said in a speech earlier this month. In June, the FHA insured 194,000 loans – the highest monthly total in the agency’s history, according to Stevens. For fiscal year 2009, the dollar amount of FHA-insured mortgages is likely to reach 30% of mortgage originations, up from around 4% in 2005 and 2006, says Stu Feldstein, the president of SMR Research, a mortgage-data tracking firm.

“FHA-insured mortgages are one of the only games in town, especially if you can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage,” says Gibran Nicholas, the chairman of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CMPS Institute, which trains and certifies mortgage lenders and brokers. “Now that the subprime market is gone, FHA is filling the gap.”

Bridging The Gap

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Traditionally, a bridge loan is taken out by people caught in bottlenecks in the home buying process. They also help buyers take quick advantage of a home bargain, make a down payment on a house under construction or simply relieve some of the pressure of house-hunting. But the loans are fairly mysterious because few lenders write them and even fewer advertise them, making cost comparisons difficult.

What is a Bridge Loan?

Bridge loans are temporary loans to cover the difference between the sales price of a new home and a home buyer’s new mortgage if the old home hasn’t sold. The bridge loan is secured to the buyer’s existing home. The loan is then used as a down payment on the new home.

Many banks that offer bridge loans do not go by a FICO rate but more a sensible underwriting approach that hinges on the prequalification of the second home’s loan rate. (In other words, did you qualify for more than the amount of your new home or are you just barely making it. What is your debt to income ratio?)

Pros and Cons:

The Pros
• You can immediately put your house on the market.
• Bridge loans often have a grace period, without payments, for a few months.
• If the buyer has made a contingency offer to buy and the seller issues a Notice to Perform, forcing the buyers hand, the buyer can move forward still move forward with the purchase without the contingency.
• It allows you to get your new home without the stress of waiting on the sale of your old one.

The Cons
• Bridge loans cost more than home equity loans.
• Buyers will be qualified by the lender to own two homes and many buyers cannot qualify for this.
• You will essentially have two mortgage payments PLUS interest. Not the best situation for the long term.

Bridge loans are not meant to be long term, so in some cases taking out a home equity loan on your existing house for the down payment on your new home may be a better course of action. If your house sells within a month or two, you may need to make only one small payment before it closes. At closing you’ll pay off the home equity loan and be done with it. Essentially, you will have crossed the bridge before you even got to it.

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Photo of Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR Real Estate
Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR
Iowa Realty
3521 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines IA 50310
515-240-2692
Fax: 515-453-6404
 

 

 

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